Some of Alexandria’s Top Nonprofit Directors Come Together through ACT’s LEAD Program
The life of a nonprofit executive director can be busy and isolating, stretched to capacity with events, grant proposals and meetings in addition to day-to-day operations. With the often limited staff time and funding being consumed by programmatic needs, many directors have few resources allocated for their own professional development.
As providers of such essential services as food, shelter and education, strengthening the leadership of these nonprofits impacts the community as a whole. John Porter, President & CEO of ACT for Alexandria (ACT), says, “We know that highly successful nonprofits must invest in leadership development, but too many just don’t have the resources or support to make it happen like they should.”
In 2013, ACT, the local community foundation, recognized the need for nonprofit leadership development. Working with executive coach and leadership consultant, Leigh Shields, ACT piloted the first LEAD (Leadership, Excellence And Development) program to provide ten months of one-on-one coaching and intensive peer sessions for nonprofit executive directors serving Alexandria.
Since the launch of the pilot program, LEAD has enrolled two cohorts of five to six executive directors each, representing a diverse range of experiences and mission areas from animal services, to the arts, to early care and education. Directors came from nonprofits such as The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, Community Lodgings and Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. While some LEAD participants had led their organizations as long as 10 years, others were relatively new to their positions, serving for less than two years.
LEAD participants agree that the program was a good investment of time for their organizations. By providing affordable and high-quality leadership coaching, LEAD offers a forum for local nonprofit executives to strengthen their leadership skills, build a diverse support network of peers and solve strategic challenges for their organizations.
Tommy Park, executive director of Alexandria Soccer Association and LEAD participant, says, “Being a part of the program allowed me to take time to reflect on how I was leading and gave me tools for implementing specific solutions to some of our organizational challenges.” Through LEAD, each participant works on a solution to strategic challenge facing their organizations over the 10-month period, such as increasing communication, strengthening relationships and building better organizational culture.
Another participant in the LEAD program, Kari Galloway, executive directors of Friends of Guest House, explains “LEAD stands out from other programs because we came up with a specific strategic challenge and were able to build on our learning over the year-long period to address it.” The time directors spend in the LEAD program ultimately results in more impactful programs by providing a space for participants to think and plan strategically.
ACT is currently recruiting for the third LEAD cohort. The deadline for applications is Wednesday, September 9. Interested nonprofit executive directors serving Alexandria can learn more and apply for LEAD on the ACT website at this link. For questions about the LEAD program, please contact Brandi Yee, ACT Chief Program Officer, at 703-739-7778.
LEAD is just one of ACT’s initiatives that demonstrates ACT’s commitment to strengthening the nonprofit sector and the larger community through leadership development, collaboration, and resource sharing. For the eleventh year, ACT will convene the IMPACT: Innovation + Philanthropy Forum on October 6 to bring together board, business, city, community and nonprofit leaders to discuss strategies for influencing widespread, lasting solutions for challenges affecting Alexandria.
Paul Schmitz, groundbreaking author of Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from The Community Up, the first Innovator in Residence at Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Innovation and Impact, CEO of nonprofit and philanthropic advisory group, Leading Inside Out, and keynote speaker for this year’s IMPACT forum, will discuss collective impact, or how to give each individual affected by an issue a voice in leading change. Following the keynote, three breakout sessions will continue the conversation through interactive presentations on building high performance nonprofit organizations, developing a culture of racial equality and inclusion and engaging local businesses.
For more information on the IMPACT forum on Tuesday, October 6, please visit this link.